Gambling Disorders and How to Overcome Them


Gambling involves betting something of value on an event that is at least partly determined by chance. It doesn’t always involve a casino and can include many other types of gambling, such as playing bingo, buying lottery or scratch tickets, or even betting on American football. However, it is important to remember that any bets placed have a cost, either financial or psychological.

While most people gamble, only a small percentage of people develop pathological gambling (PG), which is characterized by recurrent maladaptive patterns of gambling behavior that interfere with daily functioning and cause distress or harm. Pathological gambling typically begins in adolescence or young adulthood and often affects women more than men. It is also more common in nonstrategic forms of gambling, such as slot machines and bingo, than in more strategic or face-to-face types of gambling, like blackjack or poker.

Research has found that a number of factors can contribute to the development of gambling disorders. These factors include genetic predisposition, environmental influences, and changes in brain function that may lead to impulsivity and a lack of ability to control impulses. These underlying biological changes can make it difficult for individuals to recognize when their gambling is becoming a problem.

Most studies of gambling have focused on the economic benefits and costs, which are readily quantifiable. However, the social impacts of gambling are less well understood. Social impacts are a combination of the monetary and non-monetary aspects of gambling that aggregate to societal real wealth losses. They can include effects on the gamblers themselves and their significant others, as well as effects on other members of society.

A range of psychological treatments can help someone with a gambling disorder. These therapies include psychodynamic therapy, which examines unconscious processes that influence the person’s behavior, and group therapy, where a group of people meets to discuss their problems together under the guidance of a mental health professional. In addition, a number of medications are available to treat co-occurring conditions that can be associated with gambling disorders, such as anxiety or depression.

Family therapy can be an effective tool for helping a loved one overcome a gambling addiction. This type of therapy can help the whole family understand why a person is gambling and how to better manage their finances and credit. It can also help the family create healthy boundaries around money and spending, and learn new coping strategies for dealing with stressful situations.

A family therapist can also teach a loved one to recognise the warning signs of gambling problems, such as hiding evidence of their gambling activity and lying to family members about it. It can also help a person find ways to replace their gambling activities with healthy, more fulfilling hobbies. For example, a person with a gambling disorder can try volunteering or taking up a hobby such as painting or art. It is also important for a person with a gambling disorder to seek support from friends and family.